Australian travellers face more delays as airport baggage handlers threaten to strike | Industrial relations

Australians flying internationally from east coast airports could see more delays as baggage handlers are threatening to go on strike due to proposed pay cuts and concerns about conditions.

Ground crew from the Emirates-owned group Dnata (the Dubai National Air Travel Agency) are taking their first step towards industrial action on Tuesday, applying to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote on strike action.

The airport services provider supplies handling for up to 20 airlines including Qantas, Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines. The federal Court previously found Qantas’s outsourcing of 1,700 ground handler jobs in 2020 was unlawful. Qantas is currently seeking to appeal the ruling in the high court.

International services at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports could be affected if the action proceeds, potentially adding further delays to a system already under stress.

On Monday, queues at Sydney airport snaked halfway around the outside of the terminal and aviation analytics firm OAG revealed the country’s two biggest airports to be ranked among the worst globally for on-time performance. Of 665 airports, Melbourne finished 631st and Sydney 597th.

Australian airports across the board have recently experienced widespread delays and cancellations as a result of weather conditions, school holidays and staff shortages, at a time they are also battling a global lost luggage crisis.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) said the application to the Fair Work Commission came as a result of Dnata’s attempt to push through an agreement which it claimed would cut pay for some workers below award minimum conditions.

The union also said that ground crew had warned Dnata that what it described as “chronic understaffing, airport chaos and safety incidents will only get worse if the company doesn’t offer secure jobs at higher rates to attract and retain workers”.

The TWU released what it said

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